Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Strategic Framework for Cloud Migration

I am often asked about the steps to be taken and the issues to be considered for a successful migration to cloud computing. There is no magic formula to it, the specific steps will depend on your internal structure, industry and differentiation in the market. As general framework, I usually recommend the Decision Framework for Cloud Migration described in the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy together with a thorough study and comparison of cloud providers tailored to your needs and requirements. The three main guidelines would be:
  • Shifting from Infrastructure to Service Management. This is a shift in mindset of the IT staff. We should be able to define our needs in terms of services (applications) and their expected quality of service. IT staff usually express their needs and requirements using infrastructure terms, I need 4 physical boxes to run the web server for a new site. However needs should be described in terms of service elasticity rules, this is in terms of service level objectives using key performance indicators, In order to ensure an optimal quality of service, I need to automatically scale the number of servers when the average CPU utilization of the running web servers exceeds a given threshold.
  • Prioritizing Services that Are Best Suited for Migration. This prioritization should be performed according to its readiness to be executed on cloud; its affinity to the cloud model in terms of security, performance, relevance and duration; and the expected gain in terms of costs, performance, quality, agility, and innovation.
  • Selecting the Best Cloud Provider. This selection is critical if we consider that given the current lack of interoperability and portability, the change to other provider in the future may be time-consuming and expensive. Besides the Price-Performance-Reliability metric, the following aspects should be considered: data protection, privacy and regulatory issues; support for business continuity; and level of control exposed to users. You could also conclude that best solution is to use different providers for different workloads.
These three guidelines constitute a very simple model to support organizations in adopting cloud computing. I will elaborate on each one shortly.

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